ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
[personal profile] ilanarama
My expectations for the Canyonlands 5-miler were pretty low. Not only would this be my first race after the disastrous Winter Of Back Injury, I also caught a bad lung-rot virus on March 4th (ironically, the day after I posted about looking forward to this race!) and didn't run for 8 days. Still, I was hoping to win my age group, or at least top three, since except for a few short-distance specialists, the 5-miler is mostly run by people not fit enough to run the concurrent half marathon (which I usually do), so the level of competition is pretty low. I also hoped to clear out the cobwebs and jump-start my fitness with some (relatively) fast running, and get a read on just how out of shape I am.

When my lungs finally cleared, I did a few short, easy runs, and then a test speed run on the Thursday before Saturday's race: I ran an easy warm-up mile, a second warm-up mile with strides, and then held a tempo-ish hard pace for a mile, something that didn't wear me out but felt hard. Based on my recent easy pace, I figured this pace would be something around 8:15, and sure enough, my test mile came out at 8:08. I can work harder in a race than I can in training, and Canyonlands is about 2500 feet lower in elevation, which also gives me a little advantage. So my plan for the race was to go out at 8 to 8:05, hold that if I could for the second mile (which had a nasty hill) and then push as hard as I could without blowing up.

I lined up near the front, as advised by my husband Britt (who has run this race twice - I've only run the half marathon), with him next to me - he figured he could run with me for at least the first mile or two. When the gun went off, Britt and I set out at an 8 minute pace, just as planned. It felt surprisingly sedate! We passed the first mile marker at 7:56 on my watch, a little fast but not too bad.

The German general Helmuth von Moltke has a famous saying which is usually paraphrased as: No plan survives first contact with the enemy. Well, in this case the 'enemy' was a woman ahead of me who looked like she might be in my age group. I couldn't help but speed up to make sure she stayed in my sights; then I passed her. Oops? Then I spotted another woman ahead, and naturally, I couldn't let her stay there. My poor husband got left behind as I began hunting down the enemy - and so did the plan.

Midway through the second mile we got shunted onto the new bicycle path by the side of the road. This eliminated the hill that used to be there, but also eliminated the Taiko drummers who had taken up station at their usual spot atop the hill - I could hear them above me but not see them! Fortunately, I didn't need the psychological boost I always get from going by them. My boost was entirely self-generated as I got a little jolt from every person I passed.

We came out of the canyon and turned south on the highway. This can be miserable on a windy day, but we lucked out with good weather, and I had nothing slowing me down as I continued to chase down other women. I could see a runner with short gray hair well ahead of me and made it my mission to catch her, finally managing to do so just as we turned into the town streets at the 4-mile mark. (After the finish, I chatted with her; she was a woman I vaguely knew from when I lived in Boulder, who had won the 50-54 age group last year, but was 55 this year. I ended up beating her by 22 seconds.)

I was letting my Garmin autolap, but it got a little out of synch at mile 4, and then even worse a mile later, telling me I'd run 5 miles when I still had an awfully long way to go to the finish line. (I am pretty sure I blew the tangents pretty badly at the end, because it wasn't clear that the left side of the road was closed to traffic and okay to run on, at first.) I gritted my teeth and pushed as hard as I could, crossed the finish line, and then had to lean on the barrier to catch my breath while the nice first aid people asked me if I was okay. I waited there until Britt finished, just a little over a minute later, and then we grabbed some food and went back out to the course to cheer on our friends.

My final time was 39:33 by gun, 39:29 by chip, which amazingly enough not only won me my age group but the masters' division (women over 40), so I got some nice loot:

Canyonlands 2015 swag

It's really glorious to be the first female 40+ at age 51! The next female master was the 55-year old I mentioned earlier, and then a 45-year old finished a bit more than a minute later. The first actual 40-45 woman finished over 2 minutes behind me. I was the 6th woman out of 364 and 29th person out of 602. Which makes me sound really fast!

The truth is, I was not really all that fast. My overall pace (as per the race distance, not my Garmin) was 7:53, which is seven seconds per mile slower than my most recent marathon pace. The first 46 women over the finish line of the half marathon were running faster than I was. If any of them (actually, if any of the top, oh, 110 or so of them) had chosen to run the half, they would have beaten me. In absolute terms, it was not a stellar performance.

But I'm not complaining. I'm really happy with it as my first race back after injury. I'm astonished, as I always am, that I can run so much faster in races than I can in training; it gives me hope that I still have a moderate reservoir of mojo to tap. It also gave me a chance to get my legs moving faster than usual, to get my heart pounding, to remind my body that it can indeed move faster than my recent poky training pace. And woohoo, cool loot!

Splits (by Garmin):
1: 7:56
2: 7:36
3: 7:46
4: 7:54
5: 7:49
+31.07 seconds for 0.07 mi = 7:40 pace at end.
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ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
Ilana

April 2017

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My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

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